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After a horrible public school experience for our oldest son, we decided to start homeschooling. I had actually made the decision in February of that year, but we waited and dealt with the aggravation and issues at the school until the end of the school year. In all of the educational decisions we have made, that’s the one I regret the most. I didn’t know we could withdraw midyear and start homeschooling right away. I didn’t have a homeschooling mentor to tell me it would be alright. So for those wondering what to do because here you are part way through the school year and ready to pull your children, no matter what the reason, I’m here to tell you to do it! I’ll be that mentor for you that I didn’t have.
Can you start homeschooling midyear?
Absolutely! Just like you can move anytime during the school year and withdraw your student to start a new school, you can also withdraw your student at any point in the year to start homeschooling.
I have heard from a lot of families that say they’ve gotten grief from their child’s school when they try to withdraw them, especially if the child attends a private school or is in public school with an IEP. Don’t let the teacher, principal, admission personnel, secretary, or anyone else bully you into thinking you can not withdraw your child. Unless there are extreme circumstances, they can not call child services just because you are choosing to homeschool, and they can not refuse to allow you to withdraw your child. [In those extreme circumstances, I highly recommend having an attorney to help you navigate your particular circumstances.]
When is the best time to start homeschooling?
The reality is there is no “best time” to withdraw from school and start homeschooling. For us, we waited until the end of the school year because at the time we thought it was what we needed to do. We initially went with a cyber school, and when we withdrew from that, a decision I made in late October, we waited until the first week in November – during a break for Veterans’ Day.
While deciding to withdraw your child shouldn’t be a kneejerk reaction, there is nothing stating that you can’t go to your child’s school tomorrow and withdraw them on the spot, pick up their personal things from the classroom, and call it done.
Is January a good time to start homeschooling?
January is a great time to start homeschooling because of a natural break in the school year. Many people get nervous about pulling their child mid-year, but the reality is you have to do what is best for your child and for your family. Starting in January after the holiday recess is perfect because everyone is in school together in December, and then you enjoy the holidays and ease into the new year and new normal as a homeschooling family.
The first thing you should do is research the laws in your state. Find out if there is any paperwork that you need to submit and who it needs to go to. Then, when you withdraw your student from school, let the teacher/principal know (informally) and the Board of Ed know (formally). Most districts have a form to withdraw your student, but you also want to let the teacher/principal know so your child doesn’t get marked absent when school is in session. A child who is not properly withdrawn could be marked as truant and that is not a headache anyone wants to deal with.
The next thing I recommend is to take a period of deschooling. There is a reason you want to homeschool and are leaving the brick & mortar school. Take some time, a minimum of about a month, longer if there were significant issues in the school environment, to just decompress. During this time, read frequently, go on field trips, do all the things you wish you could have done while your child was in a classroom.
As the parent, take that time of deschooling to look into curriculum options and what resources you may want to utilize. Join Facebook groups for homeschoolers in your community. Ask lots of questions about curriculum, or decide not to use one at all. See what resources you can purchase used or borrow from your local library.
Once you are ready to begin more formalized lessons, start out slow and follow your student’s needs and interests. Don’t be afraid of going down the rabbit hole if they are reading something and want to know more about one specific detail. Don’t be concerned if they take more time to do something that you anticipated. Just follow your students lead and do what you are both comfortable with.
Do I need to keep up with the public school?
The one benefit of homeschooling is that it is not replicate public school. Some states do have guidelines for what subjects need to be taught in which grade levels, but even unschoolers (those who do not follow a curriculum and are completely student lead) manage to hit the required topics. You don’t have to use the same resources or even textbooks at all! You most certainly do not need to take 5+ hours a day to complete lessons.
Am I doing enough?
Many families worry that they aren’t doing enough or that their child is falling behind. This is particularly of concern with younger and elementary aged children. Over the last 40 years, our schools have begun demanding more of our students at younger ages, and if they don’t meet those benchmarks they label the child as behind. The reality is, most of the current educational standards, particularly in the lower elementary grades, are not developmentally appropriate! Not all kids are going to read by the end of kindergarten just like not all babies will walk at 10 months old. There is a spectrum and it is much broader than many people realize.
What about socialization?
I’m throwing this one in because if you are considering homeschooling, I’m certain you’ve heard this question or even asked it yourself. I know this was a concern that came up from our families and friends when we said that we were going to homeschool. I even remember asking a friend who homeschools, how do your kids make friends? The reality is, kids make friends with everyone they meet. Its why we have to teach them not to talk to strangers. Go to a crowded playground and just let your kids be kids, and they’ll tell you all about their new friends when you pry them away to head home.
I think what we are all concerned about is that we don’t want our kids to be weird or to be lonely. I’m going to say it right here, right now, its ok to be weird! There’s nothing wrong with being different from other kids your age. And if you really want your child to interact with other homeschooled kids, there are plenty of opportunities for that as well. There are co-ops, homeschool meetups/playdates. Homeschool classes. Homeschool days at museums and zoos. There are even homeschool formals and proms! Just go to your favorite place on a day when public school is in session. See all those other kids? Chances are they are homeschooled too!
Everyone has an opinion
Whether it be family, friends, or strangers, you are bound to run into someone who has something negative to say about homeschooling and your ability to educate your own child. Even if its someone you care about, you need to remember that as a parent you do what is best for your child and your family, and they don’t get a say in the matter. You do not need to justify your choice to anyone.
Take a deep breath. Give yourself and your child grace. You are starting down a new road and while you may have an image in your head about how you want things to go, you need to find the lay of the land as you begin this new adventure. Connect with other homeschoolers, and just relax and enjoy this wonderful new season in your family’s life.